Friday, June 27, 2008 at 12:30 p.m. ET

At the Movies With Ann Hornaday

Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Movie Critic
Friday, June 27, 2008; 12:30 PM

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday was online Friday, June 27 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss what is worth seeing in theaters this weekend, including "Wanted," "War, Inc." and more.

A transcript follows.


Ann Hornaday: Good day, chatters!


Hyattsville, Md.: Hi, Ann,

I'm planning to see "WALL-E" tonight. Do you or any chatters know if it's playing at any non-mega-plex type places?


Ann Hornaday: Hello, Hyattsville! I just did a cursory check of where WALL*E is playing in our area, and the only non-super-multiplexy place it's playing in Baltimore, at the Harbor East Landmark theater. So if you're in the mood for a road trip....Safe travels!


Anonymous: Just saw "Sex and the City." Overall, pretty thin gruel, I thought, but I guess going to this film and feeling disappointed at watching what was essentially 4-5 episodes of a sitcom strung together is a bit silly. One observation you might feel is strange: when the director chose an actor to portray the love interest of the one somewhat important African-American character in the film, do you think he considered actors of all colors and just decided that the African-American actor he chose was best, or did he, as has been traditional in films and sitcoms for decades, automatically chose someone of the same race?

Ann Hornaday: Hmm, interesting question. I'd venture to guess that he probably went straight to an African American man to play that love interest; but I do remember reading that he wanted to get more African American faces into the movie than had been in the TV series, as a response to African American fans of the show.


Washington, D.C.: The CNN article about "Wall-E" said it was the best film of the year. It looks super cute. What say you?

Ann Hornaday: You know what, I haven't seen it -- I'd be seeing it right now if I weren't chatting with you guys! I have yet to see a negative word about this movie. So it looks like we have a movie date with our 6-year-old any minute now!


Arlington, Va.: I recently watched "Chinatown" for the first time in years, and was in awe of how good a movie it is! I know that detective noir didn't start with "Chinatown," but can you recommend some older movies from the era when it DID start? For what it's worth, I've already seen "Double Indemnity" (fabulous), "The Maltese Falcon" (disappointing), and "The Big Sleep" (incomprehensible).

Ann Hornaday: Oooh, yummy! What a great question and a fun one. And may I just say: I completely agree with your assessment of all three of those movies! I've never been able to get "The Big Sleep," never ever!

Okay, here's a completely random list of some noir classics, as well as some films that have a noir-ish tone:

"The Postman Always Rings Twice" (the 1946 one, not the later one); "Laura"; "Out of the Past"; "The Big Combo"; "Touch of Evil."

Here are some not-quite-purely noirs, but with stylish noir elements: "Leave Her to Heaven," "Sweet Smell of Success," "The Third Man."

And now I'll throw it open to the group. Thoughts and feelings, chatters?

Thanks for the question! (Oh, and don't miss "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," a terrific HBO documentary that uses "Chinatown" footage to eerily on-point effect.)


Toy Story: Loved the review of "Wall-e" today, but having just watched "Toy Story" for the first time, what are the subplots on broken marriage and economic displacement? It's now driving me nuts.


Ann Hornaday: I loved John Anderson's WALL*E, too, but it's been so long those plot points eluded me as well. What I remember of the first "Toy Story" is that the kid has a birthday party, gets a new toy and then his family moves, threatening his old toys with abandonment. But my memory is famously sieve-like, so that could be a completely different movie...


Reading,PA: Is IMAX still a popular format for films ? I'm wondering because where I live they are just putting the finishing touchs on an IMAX theatre to open in August -- it seems odd because this is a smaller PA city where most people don't seem to have two dimes to rub together...

Ann Hornaday: Very good question. I'm no expert in the business side of the movie business, so I'll answer off the top: I do think IMAX represents the kind of value-added filmgoing experience that Hollywood increasingly sees as one of its only ways of getting people into theaters, rather than waiting for DVDs and downloads. That also explains why 3-D is so hot again -- the two exhibition technologies (okay, some would say gimmicks) are closely connected. Dreamworks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg is a huge advocate of 3-D, to the point where I think he recently announced that his whole slate will be 3-D in coming years. The next "Shrek" will be 3-D and IMAX...So we'll check in with Reading in the future to see how this works out!


Laurel, MD: I just wanted to say how I love the way Chris Nolan is handling the marketing of "The Dark Knight" by not making a deal (even though it's huge) about this being Heath Ledgers last movie. MOVIE.OF.THE.SUMMER!

Ann Hornaday: Good point -- those trailers with Ledger are really sad and haunting -- in a good way, like you said. I'm very eager to see this movie! Oh it's on, Marvel: It's on.


Anonymous: I always thought "Mildred Pierce" was a great noir movie.

Ann Hornaday: Yes, yes! And GREAT California noir, so perfect in the "Chinatown" vein. Many thanks!


Noir-esque:"Mildred Pierce"! Be sure to wear your huge shoulder pads and hats. And a somewhat noir-nightmare-dreamlike film "The Night of the Hunter." Love it.

Ann Hornaday: Mmm, "Night of the Hunter," yes. Basically Mitchum IS noir during that era. ... As for some more contemporary iterations on the form, two that always intrigued me were John Cassavetes's "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" and "Night Moves." Disclaimer: I haven't seen either in ages, so I could be giving them way too much credit.


Boston: I enjoyed your review of "Wanted" today. Thank you for evaluating the movie as exactly what it is - no more, no less. I did want to add a bit to your musings on why Angelina went for the role. I heard a dirty rumor that she agreed to star so that the studio that produced "Wanted" would finance her upcoming Oscar vehicle - that it was a trade off, of sorts. Have you heard any other gossip that would back this up? Or are we sticking to the theory that she's indulging the "I like knives and guns" side of herself?

Ann Hornaday: Universal funded "Kung Fu Panda"?!

I kid. Thank you for your kind remarks, I'm already receiving less-than-pleased emails from "Wanted's" target demographic.

I don't see any evidence of the "Wanted"-Angelina Oscar connection on her upcoming slate on IMDB; certainly I don't think she needed that for "The Changeling," which is a Clint Eastwood vehicle, so no quid pro quo needed there. ... I guess she just likes to remind us that she can still kick tushie, even with -- how many kids is it now? I can't say I'm not in awe...


Reston, VA: I don't mean to be snarky about this, but if you were disappointed with "The Maltese Falcon", and preferred "Chinatown", maybe you really just like "Chinatown" not film noir. "The Maltese Falcon" is probably the best of these movies and is exactly like the book from which it came.

Ann Hornaday: Point taken! As much as I admire every single artist involved with "The Maltese Falcon," it always seemed somehow...talky to me, kind of cinematically inert. But I do take your point, and any failing to appreciate it is completely my own.

For some reason this just reminded me: "Night of the Iguana," anyone?


Washington: I was a little confused by your review of "Wanted" today. It seems you didn't want to like it but thought it was entertaining? Is that fair?

Ann Hornaday: I thought it was completely over the top, ridiculous, but with some very stylish sequences and well-executed action. I think it'll be hugely entertaining for some viewers, not so much for me, though. Overkill gets old real fast.


Framingham, Mass,: I just got an email in my inbox today from the nearby IMAX theater. They are ALREADY selling tickets for the opening day of "The Dark Knight." It's still almost a month away, but I am already excited to see it. The trailers look unbelievable. And I read one review so far that said Heath Ledger is amazing. It's got to be better than "Batman Begins" (which I really, really liked) for the simple reason that they replaced Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Katie was the worst thing about the last one. "The Dark Knight" is definitely the movie of the summer.

Ann Hornaday: There ya go!


DC: I think since the "love interest" was from her home town - not necessarily from NY - which is why she supposedly moved there....they went with an African American.

Ann Hornaday: Good point..


Toy Story::"broken marriage and economic displacement"

There's no father. The implication is that the mother has to move because of divorce and/or abandonment. So the toys become even more important for adjustment for the children.

At least that's what I remember!

Ann Hornaday: Completely passed me by. Thank you!


Curmudgeonville: More great detective/film noir to recommend:

"In a Lonely Place"

"Murder, My Sweet"

The Elliott Gould version of "The Long Goodbye" (directed by Robt. Altman)

"Key Largo"

The two "Body" movies, "Body Double" and "Body Heat," especially "Heat"

Ann Hornaday: Yeah! Thanks Curmudge!


Falls Church, VA: I took a sick day on Tuesday (really a mental health day!) and I caught "Suddenly, Last Summer" with Liz Taylor, Kate Hepburn and Montgomery Clift. AMAZING movie! Kind of creepy given the subject of the movie but I didn't realize how gifted an actress La Liz was. I watched her bio on the Biography channel and she claimed to have no formal acting training.

Ann Hornaday: That is a totally creepy movie, and a great one. Thanks for that reminder!


More noir titles:"Pickup on South Street," Jules Dassin's "The Naked City," "Kiss of Death" (Richard Widmark is terrifying as Tommy Udo), "Detour," "Murder My Sweet," "In a Lonely Place" (Humphrey Bogart), "The Killers" (the Burt Lancaster version) and my favorite "The Big Clock" (this was remade as Kevin Costner's "No Way Out.")

Ann Hornaday: Yes, yes and yes! (And yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.)


Metro Centro DC: Annie, did you come up with the phrase "Gats & Tats?"

Ann Hornaday: Oh lord I think I did. I'll pay for that...


Curmudgeonville again: Add "Dark Passage."

Ann Hornaday: You bet...


Mongol: Have you seen it? I got dragged last weekend, as the people I was going to the movies with had seen all of the films I wanted to see, and I must say I completely disagreed with Stephen Hunter's review - sure it was pretty and well-acted but it was, in essence, two hours of "Mongols" on horseback slicing each other in half! I had to sit with my hands over my eyes for most of the movie and I don't consider myself particularly squeamish or unwilling to see bloodshed in a movie. Plus, I couldn't suspend my disbelief -- a 9-year-old treks across snow-covered mountains for days with no food to no ill effect -- that inability to suspend my disbelief is testament to how much I didn't like the movie!

Ann Hornaday: Caught it last weekend with the DH and I agree with you, I'm afraid. I loved the lead actors (and actress), and the scenery, but the whole revisionist thing -- that he did it all for the love of a good woman -- really bugged me. As history, it was very effective myth-making.

Also -- and this is kind of a weird detail -- I hated the music that came up at the closing credits. It just set a tone of pop-culture bombast that pointed up how mannered the whole thing was.


Franconia, VA: Really, I'm not a fanboy, but taking what seemed to be a swipe at graphic novels seemed unfair. Comics, as most people conceive of them, involve super-strong people in underwear fighting villains with death rays. Graphic novels are stories told with the help of pictures. The combo seems to help the transition to film, including "The Road to Perdition" and "V for Vendetta." Other graphic novels have tackled weighty issues, as well.

Trash "Wanted," but the format it came from seems to be blameless.


Ann Hornaday: Oh, alright. Mea culpa. So what is "Wanted," a comic book or a graphic novel? (I might add "Ghost World" and "American Splendor" examples of the latter, both of which I loved.)

Thanks for writing, and I promise to take your words to heart!


Re; Non Mega Plex theatres: Please let me shamelessly plug my favorite DC theatre, The Avalon, on Connecticut Ave in Chevy Chase DC. Full disclosure - I am a volunteer - because I want people to see movies the way they were meant to be seen - on a single huge screen in a beautiful building, not a box in a mall.

Currently, "Get Smart" is playing, and parents, next week is "Kitt Kittredge, An American Girl." Take your kids, they'll love the experience of the high ceilings and grandness of it all. There are several kid friendly restaurants within a 2 block area.

It's my favorite date night, too. Thanks, PSA over.

Ann Hornaday: Plug welcome and seconded! Washington audiences are indeed lucky to have a grand movie palace in their midst; Baltimore, where I live, has one too -- the Senator. Love 'em both.

And I'm hearing good things about "Kit Kittredge," can't wait to see it with my little girl when the time is right!

Thanks for your good work!


Nashville, TN: In my noir phase I viewed more movies than I could mention here, and it's probably easier for people to Google lists of good noir ones anyway. However, no one ever seems to renenber "The Last Seduction" (1994)which is definitely noir, so I'll mention it. Terrific film.

Ann Hornaday: That and John Dahl's first film, "Red Rock West" is really worth catching. Thanks!


Silver Spring, MD: Although the movie "The Big Sleep" is indeed incomprehensible, the original book by Raymond Chandler is a terrific read (all his noir-type crime novels are!) I think what might have happened is that the scriptwriters had to sanitize themes that were taboo at the time, butchering the story.

Ann Hornaday: I'm sure on behalf of all adapted authors through history: Thank you.


Ann Hornaday: Okay chatters, it's that time -- gotta bounce. Have a great holiday weekend next week and I promise I will have seen everything when we re-convene!


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